I’m going to be honest with you. I’ve never understood why or how people can live with just plain sheets, three books on a desk, and a black lamp. Some people might say I’m extra. I mean, I won’t deny it. But throughout my three years at BU, I’ve had a great time putting up decorations of my favorite things and creating a space that I love coming home to every night after a long day of class and work. One really common misconception about my decorations is that I spent a ton of money in order to put everything together, but that’s just all false! I paid for all of my decorations myself, and as you know, #brokecollegegirl so these options are all super affordable! I also recycle decorations from year to year, which saves me a ton of money because I am not shopping like crazy every September.
Marble contact paper
This is probably the one trick that everyone asks about the first time they step into my room. Since freshman year, I was inspired by my friend who attends the other BU (what’s up Ally!) who did this when she moved in. I used to get my marble contact paper from Lowe’s and actually pack it in my suitcase from home, but now I found that Target has rolls as well! I purchased this one and this one this one for my apartment currently. My biggest tips for putting the contact paper on is to cut it beforehand, use the grid on the back, and use an ID card to smooth out bubbles. If you can’t smooth them out, take a thumbtack and poke a microscopic hole to get the air out that way!
I always thought it was B.S. that people put their wall art in frames, but it actually makes SUCH a big difference and makes your space feel more like home. The dollar store is actually just two blocks from where I live, so I get gold frames from there and print out designs I made on Canva. You can get super creative with this because you can literally print anything out and frame it for a polished look.
Clear your desk
Since freshman year, I’ve always taken the desk hatch off my desk. The desk hatch is the shelf thing that most dorm desks come with, and most people will store books or decor on it. I promise you, after I’ve done this and told my friends to do this, not one friend has kept it on. When you take the desk hatch off, it opens up so much more space on your desk and makes it feel less claustrophobic and more inviting to do work on. You might wonder, where do I keep the hatch then? I’ve put it under my bed or in my closet as a shoe rack, wherever space allows!
Get a rug
I don’t care who you are, or what your style is. You can benefit from a rug. Rugs transform space instantly, help make cleaning for you easier, and make a great landing spot for your feet when you come home. Avoid white rugs, because although they will look nice the first few weeks you get them, they inevitably will start turning other colors. My go-to is a grey rug, because it literally never gets dirty, and doesn’t close in a space like a black rug would. If you’re feeling more fun, get a patterned rug. This is the only exception of having a lighter rug, because if there is a darker colored pattern on it, dirt will look less obvious. Also, don’t be afraid to have more than one rug in a room! It helps you separate spaces. For example, I have a smaller, shag rug right by my bed for my feet when I wake up, but a larger area rug right next to it.
Wheels change your life
I got a three-shelf cart my freshman year and I have used it every year since then. There are metal utility carts, wooden carts, metal carts, and larger carts, so get any one that fits your style and taste. You can use them as a bar cart, as a bedside table, or a makeup station. The options are endless and they’re super easy to take apart at the end of the semester.
Build your throw blanket collection now!
Throw blankets transform spaces, whether it’s your living room or your bed. They also keep you warm at night when the heat isn’t doing enough! They’re also great because they add a new layer to your bed and are easy to change up when you get bored, especially if you get a reversible one. My favorite throws are either fuzzy sherpa ones or knit ones.
Lighting is key.
Most of the time, the dorm lights are really harsh and not inviting at all. String lights are a popular option to spice up your space. I used to use these globe lights in white because I thought they were a little more unique than the standard christmas lights. Since sophomore year, I’ve also been loving the pendant light, which is literally just an Edison bulb in a hanging pendant light that you plug in. I use a command hook to hang it off the ceiling and think that it gives off a more sleek, clean look than all-around lights.
80% of the things I have on my space are things that remind me of someone, something, or a moment in time. I also love to display things that people gave me. Don’t get so focused on creating the “perfect aesthetic” and instead, choose some key colors to stick with and add in things that correspond and also remind you of the things you love most. For example, I bought this postcard when I visited the Camp display at the MET this past summer, the Kauai bracelet is something my mom got me as a surprise from our cruise trip to Hawaii, and the stone is from One Stone, a group I was in in high school that means a lot to me.
Keep it level!
There’s now a level right on your phone with the “Measure” app, so you don’t even need a friend around to give you a second eye when hanging things. Just make sure your phone has the rotation lock off.
Lastly, the most important part of your space is functionality. It might be a bit too late now to move stuff around, but if it’s not, consider it! Before I start unpacking in a new place every semester, I always assess the space to see how it may be more functional. The way the furniture was left by the previous person may not be the best way for the space to be optimized. For example, I always like to keep my dining table closest to the kitchen as possible. You don’t want to be walking through a labyrinth of couches to put your dinner on the table. Extra tip: in small spaces, you might be tempted to push all your furniture as close to the wall as possible to optimize space. It’ll actually look bigger if you pull each piece about 1 inch off the perimeter, because the space behind gives the illusion that there is more space than there actually is!
I hope these tips help you create a space you love! I’d love to see pictures of your decor and how you set everything up! Feel free to reach out to me firstname.lastname@example.org or via Instagram @genevelau!
Whether you like it or not, Instagram has climbed its way to the top in terms of social media site rankings. From mouthwatering foodie accounts to fashion bloggers with perfect outfits, don’t think that you have to have a ton of followers or an endless amount of money to curate your feed into something that reflects the life you love! Here are five easy ways to spice up your Instagram game! And hey, maybe you’re not that into Instagram–nothing wrong with that! Just pick one, mess around, and see how you like it!
1. Get a Lightroom Mobile preset!
I first heard about people buying presets from bloggers. Those can range from $30-$70 for a pack– ridiculous! I resorted to searching the internet and found that you can buy a TON of different presets on Etsy for way cheaper! You can buy packs for around $10 or a single preset for $5. To choose a preset, I recommend going with colors that you like, or ones that create a visual you love. For example, mine is warm toned because I like sunshine and summer, which is kind of what all my pictures look like. I also really like it when I look tan and my hair looks blonder, all of which my preset helps accentuate!
2. Add highlights!
There are endless ways you can choose to categorize your highlights. Personally, I like to do them by location, but a lot of people will choose topics. I also like to choose a cover for the highlight that matches my feed, so overall there is a cohesive aesthetic.
3. Post what you want!
Sometimes, we take so many pictures to get “the perfect shot”. In choosing which one to post, I always go with the one that I feel the best about! It’s okay to ask your friends for advice sometimes, but make sure to choose something that really portrays who you are and let your personality shine through!
4. Create interactive stories!
Instagram stories are a great way to show followers a more “real” version of you! You can post polls, show your bites, and snippets of moments of your life worth sharing. I learned how to add fun embellishments and text effects by following and watching bloggers’ Instagram accounts. Adding color behind words, alternating fonts, and using the pen are all tools that can help you!
5. Make your caption short, sweet, and 100% you!
The last part, and usually the longest part of crafting the perfect Instagram post: the caption! You don’t want it to be too long, you want it to catch people’s attention, and you want it to relate to the photo. I usually like to include something that happened that day, or share a moment that I was making a fool of myself. Don’t be afraid to be silly! People love laughing a little while scrolling through.
With that, go on out there! Make your account 110% you! And let’s connect- @genevelau .
Before I moved to Boston for college, I didn’t get the hype about Trader Joe’s. Back home, it was the “expensive grocery store that was overhyped.” This summer, I lived in my first apartment and needed to grocery stop on my own for the first time. Then, I understood the hype about T.J.’s. I haven’t looked back since.
First of all, the stereotype that it’s an expensive grocery store is completely false. In fact, Trader Joe’s is probably the cheapest grocery store in the city. I used to do all my grocery shopping at Target, and I would almost always rack up a bill of $50-$60 a week. Star Market is absolutely unquestionably more expensive than Target. Most of the time, I can walk out of Trader Joe’s spending $25-$40, depending on what I get. That’s a steal.
I’ve compiled below some of my favorite things to get that are on my list almost every week. The next time you’re bored of the snacks you always opt for, give these a try!
Mini Vegetable Samosas + Dipping Sauce
These vegetable samosas are crispy little triangles filled with a mixture of lentils, peas, potatoes, onions, and Indian spices. They heat up quickly in the microwave and are just the perfect combination of crispy and soft.
For the dipping sauce, mix equal parts almond butter, soy sauce, and honey. At first, this combination sounds interesting. But believe me, it is one of the greatest things you will ever taste. All of my friends and suite mates would agree. It’s slightly thick, nutty, sweet, and salty, all at once. Of course, if you like one particular ingredient more, you can always adjust portions to taste.
Pumpernickel Pretzel Sticks + Pub Cheese
This combination was actually first introduced to me by COM advisor Bryan (he trained us orientation leaders this summer and always brought us bags full of snacks from Trader Joe’s every meeting). I always got to take extras of this combo home so obviously, it grew on me. The combination of the tastes of these two are just perfect.
Tatte-inspired Ricotta and Jam Toast
I actually have to give my friend Sam full credits for this one. She runs an Instagram page, @EZDormCookin. She buys the San Francisco sourdough bread and spreads whole milk ricotta cheese and strawberry preserves on top. I love having this in the morning for breakfast because it’s just the perfect mix of sweet and salty and gives me enough nutrients to last till lunch!
These are just a few of my favorite food finds at Trader Joe’s! I highly recommend a trip down to the T.J.’s at Coolidge Corner and a good stroll through all the aisles. You might find your next favorite snack, or a few!
I bought my letter board from Primark this past spring, on one of those shopping trips where you aren’t really looking for anything in particular but something catches your eye, it’s under $10, so you know you HAVE to get it.
I’ll be honest with you, I might have only bought it because it was extremely popular on Pinterest and Instagram, and I wanted to add it to my collection of “aesthetically trendy room decor things” that I adorned my living space with.
I’ve always loved hanging up inspirational quotes in my room, so this was like another excuse to do that, but I could change the quotes all the time.
It wasn’t until this summer that I realized why a letter board was such a crucial piece that every college student absolutely needs. And, here’s why.
You know when your best friend tries to tell you something that can just never get through to your head? Like “It doesn’t matters what others are doing, it matters what you are doing.” Or, maybe even something simpler, like “You got this.” Well, a letter board might actually make these quotes stick better, and you might start to believe the motivational quote it tells you.
When you’re spending no less than fifteen minutes tearing out tiny letters to arrange onto a letter board, counting out the rows to make sure it’s centered, and sometimes adding playful touches to make the words slanted or dome shaped, you’re actually in the process of letting these words engrain themselves in your head.
Have I convinced you yet? The board I use isn’t being sold at Primark anymore, but here are five options for you if you’re ready to get your own!
- Forever 21 White Letter Board | $9.90– It comes in black, too! And for under $10? SCORE.
- Amazon Black 10 x 10 Felt Letter Board | $12.95– If you’re lazy and don’t want to head to the store, get this one shipped to you for free via Amazon Prime!
- Amazon Black 10 x 10 Felt Letter Board w/ Gold Letters | $14.95– Get one with gold letters for only $2 more!
- Amazon Black 12 x 16 Felt Letter Board | $16.79– A rectangular board is good if you know you’ll be making longer quotes and phrases.
- Amazon Maroon 10 x 10 Felt Letter Board | $15.93– Get one in your favorite color for a nice pop!
Share your pictures of your new letter board decor with me over on Instagram at @genevelau! I hope that I’ve convinced you all to get one now. What better time than now, at the start of the new school year, to add a new piece of decor to your space!
One of the best parts about living in a city like Boston is all of the beautiful spots perfect for photographing! Here are 5 spots in bean town that you are sure to love and likely to make it on your next Instagram post.
1. Piers Park | 95 Marginal St, Boston, MA 02128
How to get there:
Take a Green Line train Inbound from Kenmore (C or D) to Government Center (6 stops)
At Government Center, change to the Blue Line (Wonderland) (3 stops)
Get off at Maverick stop
Walk to Piers Park, head southeast until you find Marginal Street
Piers Park was actually one of the first places I visited on my own without my parents since I got to BU! My friend Jack looked it up online before and really wanted to check it out so we did the first Saturday. It was a ton of fun, and you can get some really great photos with the city skyline in the background.
2. Acorn Street | Acorn St, Boston, MA 02108
How to get there:
Take a Green Line train Inbound to Boylston
Walk across the Boston Common (Away from Tremont, along Charles, towards Beacon)
Find Spruce Street after crossing Beacon Street
Turn left on Chestnut Street
Turn right on Willow Street
Turn left on Acorn Street
Acorn Street currently holds the title of “Most Photographed Street in America”. It is a stop on every Boston tour, so you’ll always see handfuls of tourists passing by, as well as senior portrait photographers and wedding photographers doing shoots. Getting the perfect photo can be hard sometimes with so many frequenters but you just have to be smart about your angle and timing!
3. Berkshire Bank Sign @ Government Center
Photo from Twitter
How to get there:
Take a Green Line train Inbound to Park Street
At Park Street, change to any train to take you one further stop to Government Center
Although not always up, these huge letters spelling Boston are a great way for you to show your Boston pride! If you happen to see the letters while you’re in the area, stop for a pic! They’re not always up. However, over the winter they put up a gorgeous skating rink, so if that’s more your style, all power to you!
4. Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum | 25 Evans Way, Boston, MA 02115
How to get there:
Although accessible via the T, it takes way longer than walking
Turn away from the Charles on St. Mary’s Street
Turn left onto Mountfort Street
Follow Park Drive (slight right, and then slight left)
Turn right onto Brookline Avenue
Turn left onto Fenway
Turn right onto Evans Way
An absolutely picturesque gem, the Gardner Museum is not only free for BU students, but a great spot to enjoy both nature and art. Fun fact- the largest art theft in history is still an ongoing investigation for the 13 art pieces, worth up to $500 million, stolen from the Gardner museum in 1990. As part of Isabella Stewart Gardner’s will, none of the paintings in the museum can be replaced, so take a look into the different rooms–you’ll notice there are empty frames awaiting the stolen paintings’ return home!
5. The Boston University Bridge | Boston, MA 02215
How to get there:
Heading westward on Commonwealth Avenue, take a right when you hit the bridge. You’ll pass the GSU and the Boston University Academy
Unexpected, but the BU bridge actually gives you this great overall view of the skyline of Boston! On a sunny day, you can get an amazing photo with the buildings in the background. Plus, it’s so close to campus, you barely have to travel to get there!
I feel like I can adequately call myself a “city girl now” I’ll be honest; when I first moved to Boston from my hometown of Boise, Idaho (which is tiny, mind you), I had no idea if I would adjust to the city life. I definitely had a bit of culture shock initially. But, as my first semester unfolded, I checked off places on my “Places to See” list, I slowly gained the Bostonian status. Here are 5 signs that you have, too.
- You no longer have to check the T maps to know what stop is next on the Green Line Inbound.
Kenmore, Hynes, Copley, Arlington, Boylston, then Park Street. After you take the T enough times, you’ll start to know exactly what stop you’re getting off at and not have to consistently stand next to the map or check the LED sign religiously. An extra bonus: you can give people directions if they look lost! (Also, @MBTA, when are you going to fix the fact that you can’t change directions at Copley and have to go all the way to Arlington?)
Next stop: Boylston. No smoking, please.
2) City Target becomes more impractical than fun.
Now, no hate, because the City Target is the bomb.com, but it’s the worst feeling when you realize you forgot to grab something on the third floor and are heading to the checkout on the second floor. Tip: section off your shopping list by floor so you don’t have to go back to the third floor a second time!
Moment of appreciation for the beautiful lights and luxurious apartment buildings on the way from the BU Campus to Target, though.
3) Jaywalking at Kenmore Square does not phase you.
Crossing the street when the light is actually green? What’s that? Besides mumbling “hit me, I dare you” under your breath half-jokingly, you’ll start to realize that it’s completely irrational to wait to cross because there can either be so much traffic that it is standstill, or no cars at all.
STILL LOOK BEFORE YOU CROSS THOUGH. Both ways, twice! Safety is #1.
4) You begin to venture outside of the city during the weekend.
Obviously, living in Boston is amazing. But eventually, you’ll branch out and explore places outside of Boston– in close proximity like Cambridge or Somerville, and a bit further, like Salem or the Cape. And lucky for us, MBTA offer direct transportation to places like Newburyport and Salem, so there’s almost no excuse to get out of the immediate Boston area.
Make sure you book bus or train tickets in advance if you are planning on going somewhere during three day weekends! Prices may skyrocket.
5) You never leave for the day without packing an umbrella or rain jacket.
Boston can always be unexpectedly hit with downpours, and you don’t want to be left unprepared and drenched on your walk from class to class. Rain jackets are awesome if you don’t want the bulk of an umbrella and take up barely any space in your bag when folded up. However, if you want more full coverage from the rain without wearing a hood, an umbrella is your best option! Lots of stores sell smaller, compact umbrellas perfect for college students!
So, do you think you’ve met the criteria for being a true Bostonian?
If so, congrats! And hey, if not quite yet, no worries. You still got a few years to go, so what’s the rush?